Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problem

Cash.  We were beginning to need it desperately.  Our hopes were pinned on finding something in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou.  A whole day of wandering from bank to bank trying to pronounce Grand Bretagne in French eventually proved fruitful at La Banque Internationale du Burkina (BIB) where they only made us pay a 4% commission to change British pounds.  Another bank even took our traveler’s cheques.  Money in hand we felt confident that we could spend another few weeks in the Franc zone and decided to get a visa des pays de l'entente to enter Benin and Togo before circling back to finish in Ghana.  At the BF Dept. of Migration, we were told that it would take three days to process such a visa, which would have been too late for the next bi-weekly bus to Benin.  Having flashbacks of when we were trapped in Guyana we pleaded with the official if it could be done plus rapidé.  

I’m sure you can guess where this went next.  There are two types of people you can bribe: one type will be grateful and go out of his way to help you, while the other type thinks you’re rich suckers and will extort as much as he can.  Hoping that he was the first we slipped him an extra 5,000 CFA ($10) on the $100 visas so that they would be done by the next day.  Judging by his eyebrows it was more than enough.  As we left we wondered if we should have paid less and whether we would have any difficulty getting the passports back when we returned.  Instead, we awoke the next morning to one of the auberge staff knocking on our door telling us that our passports were here.  The smiling official had hand-delivered them to us, a few miles out of his way, and thus freed up the rest of our day for artisan shopping and a long lunch.  Best bribe ever.

The other funny thing is that we bumped into people from the overland truck, but…  not our truck.  Oasis, another overland trek company, follows the nearly the same route around the same time as African Trails.  How did we meet them, you might ask?  We were having dinner in the hostel and overheard loud complaining punctuated by the word “truck” every other sentence.  Amazing.

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